No matter how hard or fast you run, you just can’t get away from it. Everywhere you look, there is information on the benefits of yoga, ranging from the purely psychological high of being able to touch your toes again through to improving your oxygen and blood flow, reducing stress and tension, reducing back pain and arthritis, improving your immune system, improving coordination and balance, increasing self confidence, increasing concentration and mental discipline, improving sleep or helping detox your body. It seems that there are no down sides whatsoever to this particular form of movement – other than it is hard work and requires concentration, dedication, and respect for your body.
Now, to compound it, sportspeople across the board are being told how they can improve their performance by incorporating yoga into their weekly (even better: daily) workout schedules.
Take running, power walking, hiking or Nordic Walking for example. These are straightforward sports. You tie up your shoes and go (with your sticks too, if you’re Nordic Walking). Plain, simple, easy. You come back sweaty, heart healthy, blood pounding through your veins and oxygen flowing through your lungs and often on a ‘runner’s high’ from the endorphins swarming through your being. Very healthy and just what the doctors’ recommend. However, if you combine one of these sports with yoga, you get the added benefits of increased flexibility and well-stretched muscles (reducing risk of injury and pain); improved balance (great for trail running); greater ability to focus on your goals (think of training for a race); and more strength, especially of your core muscles (brings physical balance to your body), to name a few.
These same benefits go for sports like aerobics, cycling, soccer, basketball, volleyball, baseball, football, skiing, skating, hockey, martial arts, spinning, weight training, athletics, boxing, wrestling and swimming, to name but a few.
Let’s look some seemingly less sporty sports now, like golf or, my personal favorite, archery. As I am more versed in the sport of archery, I’ll use it as my example here. A good archer needs muscle stability, good posture, a good feel for the body, calm breathing, endurance, focus, concentration and good balance. All of these are taught and enhanced through yoga. What is more, you can choose freely from the vast palette of Asanas (postures or poses) to focus on the parts of your body which are giving you the most trouble.
Yoga isn’t just something for hippies, sissies, esoteric wimps (as one acquaintance put it) or women. Much as I have tried to avoid the fact over the years: yoga is something for everyone. And yoga also offers something for everyone. There are many branches of yoga, bringing practice and benefits from many different approaches. If you look around, you’ll be sure to find a style which suits you – for example, the gentler and slow paced Hatha Yoga; or the faster moving, quicker flowing Ashtanga Yoga (also known as Power Yoga); or Vinyasa Yoga (Flow Yoga) which is somewhere in between and focuses on flowing moves while concentrating a lot on the breath; or the more spiritual Kundalini Yoga; or even Bikram Yoga (Hot Yoga)which involves doing a series of 26 yoga poses in a hot room; or even Yoga Nidra (Sleep Yoga), which is a state of conscious deep sleep.
So, whatever sport you prefer, maybe it is time to start doing some seriously rethought sport combining and add yoga to your workout schedule.